Tamil Nadu, so close yet so far

Despite the setback in the final hurdle, there were plenty of positives for Tamil Nadu in the Vijay Hazare Trophy 2019-20.

Tamil Nadu bowler K. Vignesh celebrates a dismissal with his team-mates in the Vijay Hazare Trophy fixture against Services in Jaipur.   -  PTI

A memorable campaign in the Vijay Hazare Trophy for Tamil Nadu — the side won all its nine matches in the league phase — ended on a disappointing note for Dinesh Karthik’s men in the final. Host Karnataka romped home in Bengaluru.

Despite making all the right moves until that point, did Tamil Nadu get its strategy wrong in the summit clash? Under a cloud cover was it prudent for Tamil Nadu, defending a modest 252, to open its bowling with two off-spinners when the conditions screamed for seamers.

Karnataka was off to a flier.

And with rain in the air, should not have Tamil Nadu slowed down the game having its seamers on. So that when the rain came down, the contest would not have progressed beyond the cut-off point of 20 overs and both sides would have been adjudged joint winners.

In the event, spinners sent down as many as 13 of the first 20 overs — the overs ended quickly. And the side’s trump card, R. Ashwin, bowled only two overs. By the time rain ended the contest after 23 overs, Karnataka was ahead on required run-rate.

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Talking to Sportstar, the chairman of the state selection panel M. Senthilnathan defended Tamil Nadu’s tactics. “We have had considerable success with spinners bowling upfront in the other games. Our strength is spin. It is not as if we have pacemen bowling at 140 kmph. We have our limitations with pace. That is why Dinesh [Karthik] began with spin. And Washington [Sundar] got a wicket too.”

Dwelling on Ashwin bowling only two overs, Senthilnathan said, “It is hard to predict when the rain will arrive. Perhaps, Dinesh would have wanted Ashwin to bowl in the later stages of the innings.”

Senthil observed the run-out of Baba Aparajith for 66 — at 178 for three in the 38th over — was the turning point. “After that we slumped and lost momentum.”

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Talking about Karthik, Senthil said, “He’s the best we have to lead, has the experience and is respected by all. This has been a good tournament for us. Aparajith batted well, so did Abhinav [Mukund]. Washington showed his all-round process and Shahrukh was a revelation with his hitting. In all, it was a team effort.”

Tamil Nadu coach D. Vasu said, “The toss was vital. The pitch was damp and we had to bat on it in the morning.”

Despite the setback in the final hurdle, there were plenty of positives for Tamil Nadu in the season-opening competition.